Sunday, July 30, 2006

Wives: A support system

Kuwait is not a city for singles. It’s a laid back city. After coming here, people usually try to settle down. Most of the Indian Chartered Accountants that I have met are married and settled with their wives. In some cases, their wives are also working.

Life and job can sometimes be frustrating over here. As such, people need a support system to constantly motivate them and keep their spirits high. Wives are considered as such a support system.

Yesterday, I went to watch a movie with a colleague of mine. Another colleague of ours Y was also at the theatre along with his wife. He offered to drop us home after the movie.

While in the car, we were discussing the movie. I don’t know but somehow it digressed to qualities of different people in our employer company. Though Y was an active participant in that discussion which was going on for my benefit, his wife was even more actively participating. She told me how such and such person was a total asshole, idiot, smart, etc.

When they dropped us off, I asked my colleague whether Y’s wife works in the company as she seems to know a lot about it. He replied that the wife is Y's support system. When Y needs to vent out his frustrations about politics, job dissatisfaction etc he talks to his wife.

He said same is the case with other desi employees. Some wives know more about the company than either you and me.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Keeping Fit

I came to this place for two days in April 2006. I was fed like crazy. When we were through eating meat and bread and thought we could not take anymore food, we were presented with sweets. Declining food can offend your hosts. As such, when I went back I had put up 4 kilos.
Now that I am here for a longer term, I don’t want to have my weight measured in units of tons when I get back. As such, I decided to join the gym of the furnished apartments that I have been put up in.

Lo! All the machines were broken. I could have played table tennis. Regardless of the fact that I cannot play it alone (I need a partner) I would have needed a table with four legs and not one standing on three legs.

Not to be unnerved, I decided to take a swim. Though the swimming pool was clean and in usable condition, it was an open air pool. Rather than offering warm or cool water, it was filled with hot water. Definitely a no no.

Only one thing was left: take a brisk walk outside. Being a sea-side city, I expected a cool breeze to be blowing. Never in my life have I ever been hit by hot air with temperature nearing triple digits at 7 pm in the evening. I could really lose some weight this way but it would have been due to falling skin from heat blisters.

Small things

A laptop and net access is a priority over here. A lot of communication takes place over the email. The same holds true back home. However, here they utilize the full functionalities of MS Outlook. I always thought that the calendar features were redundant i.e., they are useful but nobody uses them. However, everyone is well versed in all the functionalities of MS Outlook in this inefficient enterprise.

I was provided with the laptop on the 2nd day I was here. I would have gotten it the first day but I joined a bit later. Moreover, I have been provided with a corporate mobile telephone subscription. I know that there are systems in place in MNCs in Pakistan where these things happen automatically. But here I am talking about a family owned inefficient local organization and they were swift in arranging these things. Back home this would have made me feel like the President of a bank because he is the only one who gets this fast service. I am speaking this from experience.

The Beginning: A Faux Pas

I have been posted as a Finance Manager in a large family owned enterprise. I would mainly be involved in analysis which will be based on information generated from accounting data. Not only I have to streamline the system but also provide ways of generating new information that is useful (with useful being the key word).

The accounting department prepares a number of statements weekly, monthly etc. Having worked earlier in retail banking, I am used to preparing similar statements. However, in banking such statements were considered distractions from normal everyday work i.e., to be completed as soon as possible in extra time (late evening) so that we can continue with the normal work during working hours.

There are two sorts of monthly statements i.e, one for internal reporting and one for external reporting. The accountant explained to me that from the 1st till 7th of the month, he is busy in internal statements. Onwards till 15th he is busy in external statements.

Then I asked “What statements do you prepare from 15th till 30th ?”. He was taken aback. From my side it was an innocent query. However, his expressions conveyed that he did not consider them innocent questions. It was a perfect example of starting relations on the wrong foot in a country where relationships guarantee the effectiveness and completion.

Hope I did not ruin my relations with accountant on the first day.